Ag Department warns of weeds

News release from the state Ag Department:

The North Dakota Department of Agriculture is urging landowners and land managers to be on the watch for an invasive weed – cheatgrass – that has devastated millions of acres in the American West and is increasingly found in North Dakota.

“Cheatgrass is a good name for it,” Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring said in a statement. “It cheats native plants out of moisture and nutrients and cheats livestock producers out of good forage by ruining grazing land. It is also a serious fire hazard.”

Cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum L.) is also known as downy brome. Other nicknames include drooping brome, broncograss, military grass, downy chess, early chess and soft chess.

Native to the Mediterranean, it is now found in many places around the world. It has been reported in every state, and has been declared an invasive weed in 16 states, including South Dakota. Although not on North Dakota’s noxious weed list, cheatgrass is recognized as a noxious weed in Dickey County.

“Since it isn’t a state-listed noxious weed, weed boards are not required to file reports of infested acres,” Goehring said. “Reports from county agents, weed control officials and others indicate that it is spreading across North Dakota.”

An annual or winter annual grass, cheatgrass ranges from 4 to 30 inches in height. Seedlings are bright green with conspicuously hairy leaves. Stems are erect, slender and slightly hairy. The drooping seedheads of mature plants often change color from green to purple to brown or tan as the plant dries. It produces as many as 5,000 seeds per plant.

Because cheatgrass germinates in the fall, it can use up the water and nutrients needed by native plants that germinate in the spring. It also matures and dries out quickly, creating a fire hazard. Ironically, these fires help cheatgrass dominate large tracts of land.

Goehring said landowners and managers should learn to identify cheatgrass, take prompt action to control it and to report any infestations to their local weed control authorities.

“Herbicides are the primary means for controlling cheatgrass,” Goehring said. “Fortunately, several products are approved for use on cheatgrass. Producers and other landowners can get more information from their extension agent or from the noxious weed division of the agriculture department.”

Goehring said limited state cost-share funds may be available to county weed boards for cheatgrass control.